Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
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Education

Art center, church plan to use old city schools

Sofia Quintero aims to start urban farm

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Defunct Jones Junior High shown here in 2006.

The Blade
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A pair of community groups plan to transform former Toledo Public School sites into community gathering places.

Toledo City Council could vote Tuesday on requests from the mayor’s office to convey the former Jones Junior High site on Walbridge Avenue and the former Heffner Elementary site in East Toledo to the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center and New Heights Fellowship, respectively.

Those deals are part of long-promised land swaps between Toledo Public Schools and the city, largely related to the school district’s building program that rebuilt or renovated 3.5 million square feet at 44 sites.

The city gave the school district several properties for new school locations, with the expectation that the district would transfer the old school locations to the city.

The Sofia Quintero center would potentially turn the former Jones site at Broadway Street and Walbridge Avenue into an urban farm. The property is about a half-block from the center and its Golden Rule Park.

Joe Balderas, director of gardens and buildings for the center, said the site would include 66 raised beds and 11 fruit trees. A quarter-mile walking and running path would be built around the gardens. Golden Rule Park will remain, he said.

Plans will move forward as soon as the property is transferred, he said.

He said funding is in place to build at least half of the beds and begin filling them with mulch to be ready for planting in the spring.

The garden fits into the center’s goal to promote healthy living, Mr. Balderas said.

Plans include construction of beehives and a chicken coop.

“We’re going to transform Broadway,” he said. “We’re going to throw in a lot of color and garden art.”

New Heights Fellowship on Main Street in East Toledo has spent about $80,000 on work at the former elementary school on Heffner Street.

Pastor Dan Stevenson said the church plans to use the shuttered school as a place of worship, for administrative space, as a community center, and as a gathering point for its volunteer network.

The church, which has operated in the area for 12 years, has about 60 members and organizes volunteer events in the neighborhood.

The city also would take ownership of Nelson Grace Park at Detroit and Indiana avenues.

The city has maintained the park for more than a decade, though it’s technically been TPS property.

Its status as a public park would remain unchanged.

As part of the series of land swaps between Toledo Public Schools and the city, the school district should eventually take control of Optimist Park, which is between Front Street and Waite High School. Waite alumni plan to eventually put a softball facility at the park, paid for with private donations.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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